From elementary school on you’re taught about the importance of determination. In fact in 4th grade our mascot was Eager Beaver (true story) and he taught us all about the word “persistence” which impressed the hell out of my parents when I rolled that one out at the dinner table.
I’m all about being persistent, especially as far as professional things are concerned. But I’m also an advocate for knowing when to throw in the towel so you don’t drive yourself crazy. Life is short. It should also be fun. Never forget that.
This is especially important when you’re looking at your relationship. You’ve invested time and energy and emotions into this connection, so it’s tough to admit when you need to cut the cord. We all know relationships require work. If you’re expecting something that’s self-sustaining and totally effortless, you’re going to be single for a long time. But at the same time, the right relationship should also be genuinely enjoyable. It can be easy to forget that, but it’s true. At the end of the day you should spend most of your time building fun memories together, not stressing and fighting and having a subtle power struggle.
I learned a lot from the long-term relationship I was in, and though the last chunk of it was painful I wouldn’t change much. But the one thing I would do differently? Get out much sooner. We spent probably two years both well aware that this thing was dying a slow death, but feeling too sad to accept the inevitable and cut ties. So instead we had hours worth of discussions about the relationship. We had lots of fights. We made chore lists so no one felt as if they were doing more than the other around the house. We added ideas about exciting activities we could do as a couple to a tragic whiteboard I insisted on purchasing for our kitchen in a last ditch effort to infuse some excitement back into the relationship. But ultimately that was the problem. We did a lot of talking and strategizing and stressing, but we didn’t do a lot of fun having because the genuine joy in the relationship was already dead and not coming back to life. We just didn’t want to admit it.
It’s always worth it to put in the effort so you verify that you’re not bailing too soon. Things need to get a little gritty. But you also need to evaluate the heart of your relationship. As soon as it becomes something joyless and dark, something fundamentally flawed, it’s time to part ways. There are plenty of things in life that aren’t fun. Pap smears. Trips to the dentist. When your air conditioner dies on a 90-degree day. Getting an oil change. Your relationship should be a source of light after you’ve spent a day dealing with those things (hopefully not all at once). The second it’s getting lumped into those deep sigh-provoking tasks, move on. It’s admirable on both parties’ parts to seek a happier, brighter connection elsewhere.